The battle for the prestige dollar has intensified with the arrival of the turbocharged Lexus IS200t, a model aimed directly at the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.
It replaces the non-turbo IS250 and poses a much greater threat to its competitors with its competitive pricing, high equipment level, overall quality and incredible quietness and refinement.
Its new 2 litre turbo engine produces 27kW more power and 98Nm more torque than the IS 250’s 2.5 litre V6 that it replaces and delivers improved fuel economy.
Producing 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque, it returns an across the board fuel economy of 7.5 litres per 100km compared to the IS250’s 9.2 litres.
The engine mates nicely with the incredibly smooth eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the six speed unit previously fitted and matches the engine’s torque characteristics which allow it to pull strongly from low revs .
It also steps off the mark briskly with 0-100kmh coming up in 7.0 seconds.
The standard equipment list is impressive with adaptive cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, heated front seats, trip computer and a large screen with easily understood touch modes.
There is also an anti-collision system standard for all IS models while lane departure warning is standard on the Sports Luxury and blind spot monitoring standard on F Sport and up.
A Lexus trademark has long been the quality of the finish and the IS200t continues the tradition.
The panel fit and paint are excellent and the interior trim perfect. It looks luxurious, chic and modern and the overall ambience of the cabin is one of class.
The cabin is also extremely well-insulated which makes for a whisper quiet ride, one which beats its German rivals in isolating passengers from road noise and vibration.
When it comes to handling, these same Germans still have a slight edge and the IS200t is not as sharp on the road as a 3-Series.
The gap, however, is closing and I doubt that this would be a deal breaker for anyone other than the most enthusiastic of drivers for the Lexus is responsive, well mannered, predictable and at ease when tackling winding mountain roads
Most people would be overwhelmed by the value offered by the overall package and the feeling of quality that it possesses.
It carries a five stars ANCAP rating and scored 35 out of 37 possible points.
There are 10 airbags, frontal collision warning, auto emergency braking, stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist standard across the IS range.
Blind spot monitoring is standard on the F Sport and Sports Luxury, while the Sports Luxury flagship gets Lane Departure warning as standard.
There are three models in the new range – Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury – and prices have crept up when compared with the outgoing IS250.
The Luxury and F Sport have risen by $3500 to $57,500 and $65,500 respectively while the Sports Luxury is $76,500, a rise of $2500.
The Lexus is an appealing alternative to the Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi and potential buyers should not allow badge snobbery from adding it to their list.
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